They are joined by a beachside village in southern Albania, a lakeside town in Mexico, a city in Rwanda, a beachside town in Colombia, a laid-back Dutch city and a desert wilderness in Jordan often featured in blockbuster Hollywood films. Up to 5.2 million Britons are expected to book a holiday this month, starting yesterday, which has been dubbed “Sunshine Saturday”. Research by industry body Abta has shown 25 percent of the UK population like to book holidays early for the “excitement of anticipation”, particularly in the cold, dark days of January.
After a slump in bookings last year due to the summer heatwave and football World Cup, tour operators are already offering huge discounts with price comparison website TravelSupermarket listing package deals for the Algarve as down by 36 percent and Spain’s Costa Brava reduced by 28 per cent.
But for anyone looking further afield than traditional favourites like Spain and Portugal, leading online travel site booking.com has compiled a list of up-and-coming destinations by analysing bookings during the past two years and polling 21,500 people on their travel plans for 2019.
A spokesman said: “Our research reveals that nearly half of global travellers want to be more adventurous in their choice of destination in 2019 than they were in 2018.”
It named Samarkand in Uzbekistan, which was founded in the 8th century BC and became a major trading hub on the Silk Road linking China with the Mediterranean, as a place to consider.
As one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in central Asia, Samarkand is renowned for its architecture, with its Registan Square completely covered in mosaics.
Silk Road destinations have soared in popularity after featuring in TV programmes including Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road Adventure on ITV.
Mestia in north-west Georgia, situated at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by the Caucasus mountains, is another on the travel hotlist.
It has become a major destination for hikers wanting to explore the Chaladi glacier or the lakes at the base of Mount Ushba, and is also renowned for its Svan cuisine, including the kubdari meat pie and tashmijabi, cheesy mashed potatoes.
Ksamil in southern Albania is listed as a “hidden gem when it comes to beautiful beaches” with great seafood and friendly people.
Located on the Albanian Riveria, Ksamil has “crystal clear waters, secluded beaches and peaceful restaurants”, with a lake Syri I Kalter, a popular tourist attraction, where bubbles create colours that look like an eye.
Bacalar in Mexico has been tipped as “the next Maldives”, with hotels located near the Lake of the Seven Colours, the country’s second-largest natural body of freshwater with a sandy base.
Palomino in Colombia is listed for its beaches which are great for surfing, while also allowing visitors to spot wildlife like monkeys and toucans.
Among the better known destinations on the list are Wadi Rum in Jordan, a desert wilderness often used as Mars in science-fiction blockbusters like The Martian and The Last Days On Mars. It was also used for alien landscapes in Prometheus and Star Wars spin-off Rogue One.
Kigali in Rwanda is known as “The land of a Thousands Hills” and visited by travellers from across the globe to see mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park, as well as lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos and leopards on safari in Akagera National Park.
And Leeuwarden in the Netherlands is included for its “laid-back Dutch charm with its museums, great shopping districts and food hotspots”. It has grown in popularity for weekend breaks since being named a 2018 European Capital of Culture and even has its own leaning tower, De Oldhove, which tilts at a more precarious angle than the better known one in Pisa, Italy.